The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 15 , 2014
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There is a great deal of noise floating around as Indians are bombarded with wild, over-the-top speculation and superficial political debates on a book by a former aide to the prime minister, Manmohan Singh. The timing of the publication was a calculated exercise; the publisher realized that the book’s sales would be marginal once the incumbent government left office. Pointing fingers at everyone and finding fault with everything have become so common in public discourse that Indians have to deal with these throughout their waking hours. There are no exciting, fresh ideas that greet the country, either in the print or in the electronic media.

India’s system of democracy is different from the one in the United States of America, where the elected head of the government is trusted entirely to lead, through a complicated and layered process. In India we vote for political parties. Therefore, the party, as a collective, determines the directions its policies will take when it is forming the government. It is irresponsible to presume that an Indian prime minister can operate without the consensus of the party leadership. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh were a team. Singh represented the United Progressive Alliance government that was elected to power and led by the Congress. Sonia Gandhi, as the Congress president, directed the many initiatives that were found in the party’s election manifesto. To say, therefore, that Singh did not have a free hand as the prime minister makes no sense at all because he is supposed to represent the initiatives that his party launches.

Lost chance

It is interesting that books such as Sanjaya Baru’s new work, which expose various hidden levels of functioning in a government, are being written. In most cases, the authors are attempting to distance themselves from the failures of the regimes that they were part of, implying that they tried to change the course of things while attempting to keep colleagues happy. The human ego is a strange thing; it often adds colour to a normal perspective. One hopes that a real, riveting, accurate and far more substantial account of a government’s tenure in office will be written for the benefit of future generations.

It is interesting to note that Singh fought all opposition within his party when it came to the nuclear deal and foreign direct investment in multibrand retail. Sadly, when it came to the problems that affect the greater masses who are struggling to make a comfortable living, his government failed to encourage honest entrepreneurship and upright competition. India continues to fumble within the confines of archaic laws. The UPA government in both its terms under the leadership of Singh failed to put India’s young energy to good use. If only the prime minister had been as fearless and passionate about growth and change as he had been about the nuclear bill and FDI, the Congress may have had a strong chance at winning a third term in office.

Moreover, had the prime minister been advised by his team to communicate with the people of his country regularly, the Congress-led UPA government would have been termed as proactive. It was the ‘office’ of the prime minister, and all his men, through his two terms in power, that failed him and the country. India floundered as Singh was unable to convince it of the ‘Congress’s idea’ for taking the country forward.

The prime minister, after having selected his core team of people, should have held onto the reins and commanded them with conviction. He should have made the party members fully accountable to the government and to the people of India. He failed to do so; having sensed defeat, the people from his team appear to be running for cover.